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9 Ways to Explore the Outdoors in Washington County, VA

Get ready to hike, bike, kayak and canoe your way through this beautiful haven ideal for recreation and relaxation.

By Kevin Litwin on January 7, 2022

Kayaking at Adventure Mendota
Adventure Mendota

Ready to get your heart pumping? It’s easy to stay active in Washington County – and have fun at the same time – thanks to its abundance of outdoor recreation options.

“We are lucky to have the Appalachian, Virginia Creeper and Mendota trails that make this region a key outdoor recreation haven for residents and visitors,” says Keith Owens, Washington County’s director of recreation. “We also have the Salt Trail in Glade Spring and Saltville that is perfect for activities like hiking, horseback riding or even taking your dog for a walk.”

As Owens notes, Washington County is an outdoor recreation destination. Here are 10 activities for you to make the most of it. Step out that front door – it’s time to get moving!

1. Kayak down the South Fork Holston River.

While you will be putting in the work to paddle, you will have quite the relaxing outing canoeing down South Fork Holston River. Whether you paddle the approximately 14 miles of the river or stop somewhere before, you will have to take a moment to look for fish – it’s said to have 6,000 trout per river mile.

2. Or grab a paddle and head to the lake.

You will love paddling through or gliding along the beautiful water on the 7,850-acre South Holston Lake. Both Tennessee and Virginia share South Holston, which boasts gorgeous backdrops of the Cherokee National Forest.

3. Join an adult kickball league.

Playing on a sports league is the perfect way to stay active and meet people in the community. Plus, you don’t have to be a pro to join the Department of Recreation’s kickball league. You can play for fun and burn a few calories.

Appalachian Trail in Virginia
Courtesy of Appalachian Trail Conservancy

4. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Hiking the approximately 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail probably isn’t on your list of activities, but with the trail running through Damascus, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to track a few miles. The scenery is breathtaking, and the trail is known for having numerous iconic viewpoints.

5. And be sure to hit the Virginia Creeper Trail.

This 34.3-mile national recreation trail traverses through both Abingdon and Damascus. This means you’ll get to explore a large portion of Washington County – and all on foot. The Virginia Creeper Trail is considered one of the U.S.’s premier rail trails.

6. Ride a horse or walk your dog on the Salt Trail.

Whether you decide to take your four-legged friend that neighs or barks, you’ll both have fun trotting along this nearly 8.7-mile trail, which is mostly flat and clear and offers several shaded areas – perfect for warm, sunny days. The Salt Trail weaves through both woodland and farmland.

Mendota Trail

7. Bike the Mendota Trail.

Grab your bike and helmet and set off on the 12.5-mile Mendota Trail (a mile was added in July 2021) that runs between Bristol and Mendota. You’ll be at ease during your ride, as you enjoy the views and sounds of the countryside.

8. Score a hole in one at Clear Creek Golf Club.

Golfers of all skill levels will enjoy teeing off at Clear Creek Golf Club. This public course offers great playing conditions, from pristine fairways to smooth greens.

9. Break a sweat at the Coomes Recreation Center.

Spintensity, HIIT Strength, PowerFlex and Sculpt & Stretch – these are only a few of the many classes offered at Coomes Recreation Center. Not only will you love the variety of classes, but you’ll also have fun getting to know the friendly people who lead them.

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